With India embarking on the path to introduce a micro-financing Act, the most suitable advisor is just next-door — Professor Dr Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh.
Nobel Peace laureate Professor Yunus, who is presently on a three-day tour of the city, said that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has asked for his advice on a law, which the Union government is presently considering to supervise micro financing in the country.
“Dr Singh is keen on boosting micro credit in India and we had detailed discussions over this. I have also spoken to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and RBI since NABARD would be looking after the micro-finance programmes,” he said.
Dr Yunus, who said that Indian government has sent him the draft bill for suggestions and necessary changes, explained that Dr Singh was impressed with Grameen Bank activities ever since he visited Bangladesh in the 1990s as the Union finance minister.
“The Prime Minister has sought my advice on the proposed law, which I will give. During our discussion we had agreed that the pace of micro-finance activities in India was in need of a boost.”
Professor Yunus, who built the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh from scratch, presently has around seven million borrowers, of which 97 per cent are women and the loan return rate is 99 per cent, while the bank gives out as loans $5,00,000 every year.
As on Sunday, he reiterated that the future of prosperity in the Indian subcontinent was dependent on the proper thriving of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), following the model of the European Union.
“Dr Singh had promised in the last SAARC meet that he was keen on developing a highway network within the member countries, besides introducing the SAARC passport and exchange of students and formation of a SAARC university. I would ask him in the next meeting about the status of these projects,” he said.
He, however, pointed out that the primary task was to resolve issues between India and Pakistan since, “the difference between the two neighbours had a profound effect on SAARC as a whole.”
Dr Yunus, who before on his way to Kolkata, announced at Dhaka airport that he was contemplating running for the presidency in Bangladesh, said that nothing was decided.
“I am presently gauging public reaction and if it is positive, I might actually get in to it and launch my own party. Since my dream is to eradicate poverty, I would implement the policies to this effect if I join politics, which I would do otherwise too,” he said.
On a lighter note, he said that at best his deposit money would get forfeited. “People always vote for a party of their choice and even my associates from the bank might not vote for me,” he stated with a smile.